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New Year, New Faces: LU welcomes freshman class in grand style

Cars lined up outside of residence halls across Liberty University’s campus Wednesday and Thursday as parents prepared to move their first-year students into their new homes.

Returning students will be moving in on Friday. Classes begin on Monday.

Student leadership teams gathered outside the halls, holding signs and greeting freshmen and their families with loud cheers before offering to unload all of their belongings.

(Photo by Chase Gyles)

“I saw ‘Servant’ on the back of their T-shirts, and I about lost it,” said Fielding Neel of Kentucky, who was moving in his granddaughter, Zoe Maxwell. “It was a moment. It really meant something to me. The heart of the students, the welcome, the cheering, the excitement, it just really started it off right for me.”

“It’s pretty incredible,” said Roger Dayton, father of freshman commercial aviation student Stephen Dayton. “Certainly, this morning when we came in there was a whole group of people screaming and yelling and cheering for us when we got here. It’s so much fun, and every time we’ve come it’s been so nice.”

Liberty is welcoming its second-largest incoming class in school history this year, after hitting a record for new and transfer residential students last fall.

While Roger and his wife, Beth, are sad to say goodbye to their son, they said they are thankful that they will be leaving him at a place that feels like home.

(Photo by Eva Soderstrom)

“I was nervous yesterday but when we came on campus and I saw my son, his face just lit up,” Beth Dayton said. “My mother’s heart just went, ‘I feel safe that he’s around good people, he’s protected, he’s got a nice campus.’ Everyone we’ve met, whether it was in the elevator or driving into campus or walking across the campus as we were walking over here, everyone’s (asking) ‘Where are you from, what’s your name?’ It’s just a very welcoming and wonderful campus.”

Stephen Dayton said that a Christian presence on campus was a top priority in his college selection. He found that and much more when he visited Liberty.

“When I came here for the first time, I kind of fell in love ,and knew that this is where I’m meant to be,” he said.

Freshman exercise science student Logan Starkey felt similarly, but from an earlier age. When he was 4, he would fall asleep at night to the sermons of Dr. Jerry Falwell, Liberty’s founder, on television. And after playing hockey all his life, the prospect of playing at his dream school sealed the deal. He is a member of Liberty’s ACHA Division II hockey team.

“I’m excited to get to know some of the guys … They’re all here trying to grow in faith. Jesus first, school second, hockey third. We’re excited about that,” he said.

After moving in, new students will be immersed in activities for Welcome Week, with multiple chances to make friends and become acclimated to campus life through events sponsored by Liberty’s Student Activities Office and the College of Applied Studies and Academic Success.

(Photo by Chase Gyles)
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